Gators hold off Canton|Prep basketball playoffs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 11, 2009

JACKSON — Games like the one Vicksburg had to play Tuesday night against seventh-seeded Canton are never fun and this one wasn’t.

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at Callaway

(B) Vicksburg vs. Ridgeland

At least the Gators (19-7) did enough to win and advance to play Thursday night at the Division 3-4A Tournament after subduing the pesky Tigers 45-34 at Callaway.

Canton (8-19) slowed the tempo down and Vicksburg’s poor early shooting made it difficult to speed things up until midway through the second quarter. Then Canton tried another tactic of pulling the ball out and then driving to the basket to get fouls.

That plan helped the Tigers get back in the game and put some uncomfortable heat on the heavily favored second-seeded Gators. With just 30 seconds to go in the third quarter, Vicksburg was up just three at 28-25.

“We were in our man defense, and they were just going by us and getting fouled and they began making free throws,” Vicksburg coach Dellie C. Robinson said. Canton made seven straight free throws in the third quarter. The streak ended when McDarian Abran couldn’t convert a three-point play that could’ve made it a two-point game.

Instead, Vicksburg was able to make two on its end by Maurice Williams to go into the fourth quarter up five. The Gators also changed defenses.

“We went back to the zone. We had to keep those guys out of the lane,” Robinson said.

A deep 3-pointer by Rodriquez White on the opening possession of the fourth quarter had Robinson scratching his head. Vicksburg was now up just two at 30-28. Fortunately, Gator junior forward Kelsey Howard was the hottest player on the floor.

Howard scored from 15 feet and a turnover allowed a Maurice Williams to score and gain a six-point lead. Mychal Ammons, who had a quiet game through three quarters, finally came through with a basket off the block and his dunk with 3:38 left capped an 8-0 Gator run that put them up 10 at 38-28.

“Everything I put up  just seem to be short,” Ammons said. “It’s hard to say what happened to us.”

“We just couldn’t get Mike going and he got frustrated and I sat him out most of the third quarter,” Robinson said.

Howard, though, was steady from the second quarter on and finished with a game-high 23 points. He made eight shots from the field and was 5-of-6 from the free throw line.

“They were pretty tight on me to start off, but I’m a streaky shooter,” Howard said. “Once that first shot in the second quarter went down, I felt I could make them all.”

Canton which started the final quarter with a trey, made only one of eight shots from downtown in the final six minutes. Two free throws by Darius Williams with 1:37 left sealed the Gators’ ticket to the semifinals where they will face Ridgeland on Thursday.

Maurice Williams ended with nine points and five rebounds while Ammons had nine points and six boards.

“Canton plays everybody tough and I knew this wasn’t going to be fun,” Robinson said. “Maybe since we got this one behind us, we can be a different ball club when we come back Thursday.”

Canton was led by Kenetric Gillum with 13 points.


Contact Jeff Byrd at